Print Edition: January 15, 2014
Berra and Baertschi off to Sochi, Billins and Street off to St. John’s
It was a big week in personal honours for the Abbotsford Heat, as the international rosters for both the Sochi Olympic Games and the AHL all-star team were announced. Reto Berra, who has recently secured a place on the Calgary Flames roster and now splits time in net with Karri Ramo, was named to the Swiss Olympic team. Berra will likely compete with Tobias Stephan for the back-up position, as the starting position will belong to Anaheim Ducks’ starter Jonas Hiller. 21-year-old Sven Baertschi, who finds himself in a Heat uniform after starting the season with the Flames, was named to the Swiss reserve team. Baertschi had a tough winter with the big club and ended up in coach Bob Hartley’s doghouse. While the demotion allows him to work on his game, the honour should serve as a confidence boost for the promising young forward.
Forward Ben Street and defenseman Chad Billins will represent the Abbotsford Heat at this year’s AHL all-star game. Street, who dressed for eight games with the Flames to start the season, has picked up 16 goals and 32 points in 30 games since returning to the Heat, establishing himself as the driving force behind the team’s offense. Billins, who is currently tied for second on the team in points, will participate in his second consecutive AHL all-star game, which is scheduled to take place over the NHL’s Olympic break in February.
This year the annual all-star game will take on a new look — instead of pitting the best of the Eastern and Western conferences against each other, both conferences will team up to take on Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Farjestad BK is a championship team of Sweden’s top division, winning the title in 2006, 2009, and 2011. Heat fans can catch Billins and Street demonstrating their talents in the skills competition on February 11 and against Farjestad BK during the all-star game on February 12 on Sportsnet.
Big losses on and off the ice
It’s no secret that the Heat have had their problems putting the puck in the net recently, and were outscored 15-3 in their first four games this year, but the team is suffering off the ice as well. The Province reports that the Abbotsford Heat accumulated another million dollar deficit last season. The Heat enter 2014, the fifth year of their 10-year contract with the City of Abbotsford, with sliding attendance and a devoted but small fanbase. Under the agreement, the Heat are guaranteed a financial safety net each year, with taxpayers committed to making up any monetary losses incurred by the franchise. In their half-decade history, the Heat have yet to see a season where they break even.
Heat surrender division lead
Halfway through a six-game road trip, all-stars Street and Billins were the main reasons the Heat have been able to get any points at all. Falling to second place in the West division after the Texas Stars shut Abbotsford out (the low point in a four-game stretch of three total goals scored), the Heat rebounded for a win against San Antonio. Street pushed the Heat to victory in overtime, escaping the Lone Star State with two points. The Heat have an afternoon date with Rockford and a Grand Rapids doubleheader in between them and a return home against spiritual rivals the Utica Comets (parent team: Vancouver) on January 24.